Boise State Football: 5 Things We Learned from the Broncos' Bowl Win
When this bowl was announced, it was supposed to be an offensive shootout between powerful and well-rounded Boise State and the dominant passing game of Arizona State. With Boise State's recent secondary issues, it was far from a lock for the Broncos given the Sun Devils are a deep pass team.
After defeating USC, it seemed like Arizona State was well on its way to the PAC-12 Championship game and possibly even the Rose Bowl. Instead, they proceeded to go 6-6 and barely received an invite to the Maaco Las Vegas Bowl to face the No. 7 Boise State Broncos.
This was hardly the shootout though and for sixth time in Kellen Moore's four-year career, Boise State dominated a BCS opponent by crushing an obviously inferior Arizona State team 56-24. The Broncos proved once again they are every bit as dominant a team as the season-opening rankings had them.
Though Arizona State's discipline was seriously lacking, Boise State came out firing on all cylinders, racking up a Maaco Bowl Las Vegas-record 56 points.
It wasn't that Boise State played perfect football, since they had three turnovers but Arizona State never really left the hotel or the Las Vegas buffet line.
The haters will chalk the ASU loss up to the current turmoil in the Sun Devil athletic department, but Broncos fans had little doubt Boise State would handle Arizona State easily. It was almost as if the 14-point spread added insult to the Broncos' bowl selection injury.
So, with a heavy heart, I will break down the five things we learned from the Broncos' victory over Arizona State in the Maaco Las Vegas Bowl.
Boise State Fans Do Travel
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A taboo subject for the BCS is how they select teams for bigger bowls. Granted, there are conference tie-ins for many of the bowls but as we have seen this year, those tie-ins can be magically waived.
One of the biggest complaints many Boise State nay-sayers have is that their fans do not travel. Well, the Bronco Nation has yet again proven the BCS wrong when they were given 10,000 tickets and brought over 12,000 fans to a game many Bronco fans considered a slap in the face for the boys in blue.
Given this game was three days before Christmas against an opponent that was, quite frankly, not a challenge for the Broncos, kudos must go out to the Bronco Nation for once again exceeding expectations.
Had this been a BCS game, Boise State would have easily traveled 20,000 fans.
Hopefully, someone from the BCS took note. I doubt it.
Boise State Has One of the Best Defensive Lines in the Country
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Everyone talks about Kellen Moore, Doug Martin, and the stellar Boise State offense, but once again the Broncos defense came prepared for this game and proved they were not going quietly into the night.
The Broncos defensive line was a wall as the Sun Devils had -11 rushing yards and was stuffed three times in a row on the goal line, forcing the ASU quarterback into a costly fourth-down mistake where Jamar Taylor ran an interception back for a 103-yard pick-six.
Boise State also sacked ASU QB Brock Osweiler two times, forced multiple hurried passes leading to some near-interceptions, and recovered a muffed snap for a touchdown.
Though this offense will be talked about in the history books for years to come, it was Boise State's defensive play that gave the Broncos the win against Arizona State.
The Broncos Will Miss More Than Just Kellen Moore
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Kellen Moore is hands-down the greatest player ever to step foot on the Blue Turf and I am counting opposing teams as well, but Boise State will miss many other players from this senior class. There are too many to highlight individually
Doug Martin, the Maaco Las Vegas Bowl MVP, has been Moore's set-up man for the past two years and has perpetually gotten better over the years. He is the best pass protecting back in college football and should have a career in the NFL because of that alone, however his running ability is incredible as well.
The bowl game may have been his best performance as he racked up 151 rushing yards, 26 receiving yards, and a 100-yard kick off return for a touchdown. These stats are not uncommon for Doug Martin and he will be sorely missed.
After Austin Pettis and Titus Young graduated, questions were raised about who will be Kellen Moore's go-to guy this year. Senior wide receiver Tyler Shoemaker filled those huge shoes very well and even made a few waves of his own, setting the Broncos touchdown reception record with 16. Though he may not have an NFL career ahead of him, he will be sorely missed by the Broncos.
I could say the entire defensive line would be missed, and I would not be out of line. This is an exceptionally gifted group of defensive lineman and as the previous slide showed they made their mark on an incredibly offense-heavy team. Billy Winn, Tyrone Crawford, Chase Baker and Shae McClellin will be missed, even though I suspect we will see many of them playing on Sunday.
Finally, the Broncos are going to miss their beloved punter, Brad Elkin. The rugby style punter has been a key player in the Broncos' field position game as he consistently places opponents deep into their own territory.
Though he is not mentioned very often, Elkin has been one of the most consistent and under-appreciated players on Boise State, and I know the Bronco Nation will miss their workhorse of a punter.
Boise State Will Have Some Great Players Next Year
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Though Boise State will be saying goodbye to 17 senior starters next year, Bronco fans can take solace in the fact that, historically, Boise State reloads and does not rebuild.
The fact that Chris Petersen has only six losses in the last six years is a testament to that fact because Kellen Moore did not play all six years, obviously.
There is a lot of promise in future Broncos players, especially in the receiving corps. Freshman wide receiver Matt Miller has been a breakout star this year and will likely have an illustrious career in Boise, along with the 6'4" speedster Geraldo Boldewijn.
To round out the future receivers, we can look forward to senior Mitch Burroughs, Gabe Linehan, and let's not forget that BSU will still have a Moore in Boise, with Kirby getting a couple more years.
D.J. Harper, who actually started over Martin at one point, should be returning for his fifth year to continue the tradition of great running backs at Boise State.
The Broncos secondary was very young this year, and other than one meltdown against TCU, they performed surprisingly well.
Against the very pass-heavy Arizona State Sun Devils, the Bronco secondary performed superbly and Aaron Murray was shut down in the opening game of the season. I look forward to seeing this secondary mature into a very strong defensive force.
However, of all the players I am looking forward to see returning I am especially excited about the quarterback prospects.
Sophomore Joe Southwick has been Kellen Moore's go to back up and looks to be next year's starter since he has a cannon for an arm and has spent the past two years under Kellen Moore's tutelage.
But Grant Hedrick, who also has a strong arm and a great running ability, may be able to unseat Southwick.
On top of that, Boise State has a great QB waiting in the wings in Jimmy Laughrea and received a verbal commit from Nick Patti, one of the best play callers from Florida.
Patti has been described as very Kellen Moore-esque QB and won quarterback MVP awards at Nike camps in Miami and Tallahassee, Fla., this spring.
Needless to say, the QB race will be very hot this spring, and Boise State may be looking to reload once again next year.
Boise State Deserved a Bigger Bowl
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Everyone knows that No. 7 Boise State deserved a better bowl, even the Broncos' haters know Boise State was screwed into once again playing a pre-Christmas bowl. Their absolute domination of Arizona State just reinforced those feelings.
Not a single team dominated Arizona State like the Broncos did this year. Not Missouri, not Illinois, not Cal, not USC, and not Oregon; yet this is what Boise State got for an opponent and the Broncos did far more than what anyone expected them to do.
The Broncos were a 14-point favorite but proceeded to beat the Sun Devils by 32 at a neutral site. Oregon only managed a 14-point margin of victory at home against Arizona State.
Meanwhile, a few weeks from now, we get to see five teams that are ranked lower than the Broncos play in BCS bowls. The biggest of these travesties is the at-large picks of Michigan and Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl.
Even if a BCS bowl wasn't in their future there must have been more worthy opponents or bowls. Michigan State? Nebraska? Kansas State? Arkansas?
Nope, the 12-1 Broncos got to embarrass the now 6-7 Arizona State three days before Christmas while worse teams get more money and exposure because they "bring more fans."
Once Boise State went up by four touchdowns on ASU, it became even more apparent that the No. 7 team in the country was in the wrong bowl. I guess Boise State fans are just expected to be thankful they even get to face a BCS team; we could have been in TCU's shoes.